Glastonbury is this month. We managed to put our uncontrollable excitement to one side and dug out umpteen fascinating facts about the fest. Keep clicking for all the Glastonbury trivia you need.
The town of Glastonbury was called Glestingaburg in the 7th and 8th centuries.
Jimi Hendrix died the day before the first Glastonbury festival was held in September 1970. That first festival was headlined by T.Rex, alongside acts including Stackridge and Al Stewart.
Nicky Wire caused outrage amongst Glastonbury regulars in 1994 when he shouted from the Other Stage: “Someone should build a bypass over this shithole.” Years later Wire expressed his regret: “It was supposed to be a joke. It was painful but glorious.”
It’s not the only time Manic Street Preachers have rubbed Glastonbury liberals up the wrong way. In 1999 they enraged Billy Bragg by putting a notice on their portaloo saying: “These facilities are reserved exclusively for the Manic Street Preachers.” Bragg responded sarcastically: “That’s a nice socialist gesture, lads.”
Despite Radiohead’s rapturously-received set in 1997, the band didn’t enjoy the gig – their onstage monitors were malfunctioning throughout.
Perhaps the most shocking onstage outburst came in 2005 when Bright Eyes mainman Conor Oberst called John Peel a “cokehead.” This was ill-advised, given that the much-loved DJ had passed away only a few months previously – and Bright Eyes were playing a stage named in his honour. Oberst later said he didn’t remember much of the gig, but was “very sorry”.
There’s a rich tradition of mouthy musicians trying to goad the
famously blissed-out Glastonbury crowd. In 2005, Primal Scream’s Bobby
Gillespie repeatedly called the crowd “a bunch of fucking hippies.”
40,000 tubes of sun block were handed out by the welfare tent in 2002. (This is Alex Turner by the way, dressed as a dinosaur backstage after headlining with Arctic Monkeys in 2007).
All residents in the nearby village of Pilton get a free ticket to the festival each year. Pic: Alex Maguire
One year a murder trial in London was been put on hold after one of the jurors was allowed time out in order to attend the festival.
You’ll find Glastonbury in the Guinness Book Of Records – in the juggling section. On 26 June 1984, 826 people – each juggling at least 3 objects – managed to keep 2,478 objects in the air.
All residents in the nearby village of Pilton get a free ticket to the festival each year.
Glastonbury 2008 was generally deemed a success in the media – but the festival was not a sell-out. Sluggish ticket sales meant that 2008 was the first time the festival had failed to turn a profit in 39 years.
Glastonbury has been mentioned many times in song – but it’s hardly a noble tradition. Kula Shaker wrote a song, ‘303’ about the A303 road (which leads to Glastonbury). Meanwhile, Scouting For Girls and Nizlopi have both written songs entitled ‘Glastonbury’.
Glastonbury’s annual price tag? £22 million. “It’s huge,” reveals organiser Michael Eavis. “The infrastructure, the fencing, the roads, the water and the loos, the marquees, the management, the security and the police, it goes on and on so we do have to sell out in order to make it work.” And then these clowns show up.
It’s easy to forget that Glastonbury was once the site of violence as well as peace and love. In 1991 there was a major tussle between police and new-age travellers. When the festival returned in 1992, the long-running unspoken rule – travellers got in for free – was suspended.
1987 was the year of the trouser-thieves. Overnight, hundreds of trousers were stolen from festival-goers’ tents so criminals could pick their pockets. Micheal Eavis was able to see the funny side: “Next morning large numbers of trouserless men and women were wandering about, quite embarrassed – until we found their clothes dumped n a muddy ditch.”
Many myths have attached themselves to Glastonbury and the surrounding area. In the 12th century the monks of Glastonbury Abbey “discovered” the body of the mythical King Arthur – although cynics point out that the abbey had been damaged in a fire, and the monks probably faked the discovery as a way to attract pilgrims and thus increase revenue.
Christian myths, as well as Arthurian ones, are associated with Glastonbury. One legend states that Joseph of Arimathea visited Glastonbury along with Jesus as a child. Years later Joseph supposedly returned, with the crucified Jesus’ blood in a cup.
Michael Eavis studied at the Thames Nautical Training College before joining the British Merchant Navy, and initially intended to spend 20 years at sea. He returned to the farm after the death of his father.
In 2007, 2,485 miles of toilet roll were on site for the opening day. That’s as far as London is from Baghdad.
30 megawatts of electricity are used by the festival weekend – around the same as the city of Bath.
In 2007 one of the volunteers clearing up after the festivities earnt himself a nice bonus, finding £6,000 in cash.
In 2004 Paul McCartney was fined £1,000 by the local council for playing past his curfew. Michael Eavis offered to pay it – despite Macca earning a reported £175,000 for his Saturday night headline slot.
2004’s festival saw more football fans gathered in one place to watch England play Portugal in the European Championships than anywhere else in the world. England lost.
The Pyramid Stage made its debut in 1981. Back then it was made of corrugated iron and telegraph poles and doubled as a cowshed the rest of the year.
Keith Allen started bringing his daughter Lily to Glastonbury when she was just five weeks old. Keith confessed in 2007 that he used her to help him sell drugs: “I didn’t see what was wrong with taking little Lily along with me as a sales tool – rather like the homeless lads do with dogs.” Pic: PA Photos
When Glastonbury is in full swing, it becomes the second biggest township in Somerset, after Bath.
Glastonbury has occasionally been a lawless place. Police officers were not present on site until 1990.
Which band drew the biggest ever crowd at the Pyramid Stage? Radiohead?
Oasis? Paul McCartney? No – it was The Levellers in 1994. Although how
the numbers were actually measured is anyone’s guess.
Many Glastonbury veterans remember the streaker who bounded onstage during Elastica’s set in 1995. This was Anthony Genn, later frontman of The Hours, who explained his behaviour in rueful terms: “I’d taken an astronomical sum of drugs that would kill most elephants. Any regrets? I wish, perhaps, my cock hadn’t been so shrivelled.”
On the way to play their set at the Pyramid stage in 2005 The Killers guitarist Dave Keuning was mistakenly left at a motorway service station. He almost missed the set.
Bruce Springsteen hadn’t heard of Glastonbury when Michael Eavis asked him to play the legendary festival. The festival organiser had to send Bruce’s ‘people’ an information pack explaining what Glastonbury was all about.
REM dedicated the song ‘Everybody Hurts’ to Jean Eavis (Michael’s recently deceased wife) during their 1999 performance.
The festival only became an annual event in 1981 – although Eavis likes to take a year off every five years to let the site recover.
The first Glastonbury Festival cost £1 to attend, but the price included free milk. Pic: James Looker
Michael Eavis once performed a duet with Jools Holland at Glasto 2000 in the underground piano bar, which has a capacity for 40 people.
Michael Eavis has been named one of the world’s most influential men by Time magazine. He remains down to earth though, responding with the typically humble, “I’ve got cows to sort out”.
A fresh-faced Killers find themselves in one of Glastonbury’s numerous late night dives. Glastonbury revellers are fond of a drink. In 2003, in the official bars alone, 400,000 pints of beer and cider were consumed.